Sunday, October 25, 2009

DTN News: Taliban Expand Pakistan War To Sabotage Military Offensive Against Their Stronghold

DTN News: Taliban Expand Pakistan War To Sabotage Military Offensive Against Their Stronghold
*Source: DTN News / Int'l Media
(NSI News Source Info) ISLAMABAD, Pakistan - October 26, 2009: Pakistan may be claiming early successes but Taliban guerrillas who confound the military time and again are likely to defy the army's pledge to write them off, outsmarting them in their homeland. Men, who fled a military offensive against Taliban militants in South Waziristan, line up to pick-up relief goods for internally displaced persons (IDPs) at a distribution point in Dera Ismail Khan, located in Pakistan's restive North West Frontier Province October 25, 2009. About 140,000 people have fled the fighting in South Waziristan, according to the U.N. After eight days of painstaking advance, siege and bombing, the military hailed the first major gain of its latest ground offensive -- the capture of Kotkai, the home town of Pakistan Taliban chief Hakimullah Mehsud. Troops overran Kotkai, in South Waziristan, on two previous occasions only to retreat after signing the kind of peace deals that Western critics have savaged for granting sanctuary to Al-Qaeda-linked militants. Witnesses among the more than 120,000 civilians displaced by the conflict speak of heavy bombing and long-distance artillery, tactics that maximise collateral damage and undercut modern counter-insurgency doctrine. While the army says more than 160 militants and 23 troops have been killed, it is impossible to assess the advance, resistance or casualties -- civilian or otherwise -- because the area is cut off to journalists and aid workers. Washington, which has grown increasingly alarmed at the security situation in nuclear-armed Pakistan, has praised the operation whose progress is likely to feature heavily in a looming visit by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Regional envoy Richard Holbrooke said the United States was "very impressed with the Pakistani resolve" but cautioned it was too early to assess. "We know where the troops are going; they're in the early phase. But it'll take a while before we know whether the enemy they're fighting has been dispersed or destroyed or some mixture of the two," he told reporters. In an early acknowledgement of difficulties, commanders said the offensive, originally earmarked for six to eight weeks, could drag into the desperately cold winter because of landmines and the forbidding terrain. Security officials say troops are advancing carefully, capturing strategic heights and roads, guarding their rear and protecting their flanks but that the Taliban have yet to mount stiff resistance. One official complained of poor intelligence leaving commanders unclear on Taliban tactics or strength, with assessments ranging from 5,000 to 15,000. "Troops have very little information about the number of militants and their strategy," he told AFP. Out of Pakistan's military strength of 600,000, barely 30,000 troops are deployed in South Waziristan and 150,000 in the entire northwest, the New America Foundation think tank wrote before the latest offensive began. The organisation believes Pakistan needs 370,000 to 430,000 more troops in the tribal belt and northwest to meet the force-to-population ratio of counter-insurgency doctrine and even that does not guarantee success. Rushed into the assault after a spike of attacks embarrassed security forces, the start of ground operations has not silenced the militants. Bombers struck an Islamabad university campus, targeting an airbase and a restaurant. "The Taliban will try to expand the war and keep the army busy in more than one place, but the question is whether they succeed or not," Rahimullah Yusufzai, one of Pakistan's most prominent experts on tribal affairs, told AFP. "They want their allies to attack in North Waziristan. There have already been attacks in Bajaur and Mohmand. They will try to hit back in Swat," he said, referring to the valley where the army fought the Taliban this year. "Taliban are also targeting major cities to create more fear and to put pressure on government," Yusufzai said. Militant networks are sophisticated. Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan, the army's enemy in South Waziristan, is loosely affiliated to Al-Qaeda and linked to sectarian radicals elsewhere along the Afghan border and southern Punjab. With nearly 200 people killed in attacks so far this month alone, schools have been closed and nervous families are steering clear of markets and restaurants. An article on the Foreign Policy website said the militants were likely to attack civilian targets and drag the military into a guerrilla war. "Anyone who has studied guerrilla war will tell you that armies fighting militant organisations go, for lack of a better term, a little crazy. "They don't know where the next attack is coming from, they become suspicious of everything, trust dies and they start acting in stupid and counter-productive ways," it said.

DTN News: UN Inspectors Visit Once-Secret Iranian Site

DTN News: UN Inspectors Visit Once-Secret Iranian Site
(NSI News Source Info) TEHRAN, Iran - October 26, 2009: U.N. inspectors entered a once-secret uranium enrichment facility with bunker-like construction and heavy military protection that raised Western suspicions about the extent and intent of Iran's nuclear program.Inspectors of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) leave the Imam Khomeini airport outside Tehran, Iran, Sunday, Oct. 25, 2009. (AP Photo/Vahid Salemi)*
The visit Sunday by the four-member International Atomic Energy Agency team, reported by state media, was the first independent look inside the planned nuclear fuel lab, a former ammunition dump burrowed into the treeless hills south of Tehran and only publicly disclosed last month. The inspectors are expected to study plant blueprints, interview workers and take soil samples before wrapping up the three-day mission.
No results from the inspection are expected until the team leaves the country, but some Iranian officials hailed the visit as an example that their nuclear program was open to international scrutiny.
"IAEA inspectors' visit to Fordo shows that Iran's nuclear activities are transparent and peaceful," the official IRNA news agency quoted lawmaker Hasan Ebrahimi as saying.
Another test of Iran's cooperation is fast approaching, however. Iran has promised to respond this week to a U.N.-brokered deal to process its nuclear fuel abroad — a plan designed to ease Western fears about Iran's potential ability to produce weapons-grade material.
The current inspection of Iran's second enrichment site came about a month after Tehran disclosed its existence in a letter to the IAEA, the U.N.'s nuclear watchdog. The notification to the U.N. agency came just days before President Barack Obama and other Western leaders claimed Iran has been hiding the facility from the world for years.
After Iran's disclosure, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon told Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad that "the burden of proof is on Iran" to convince the international community its nuclear program is peaceful.
Iran says that by reporting the existence of the site voluntarily, it "pre-empted a conspiracy" by the United States and its allies who were hoping to present the site as evidence that Iran was developing its nuclear program in secret.
But the IAEA says Tehran should have reported it before it started construction. And the new facility, about 20 miles (30 kilometers) north of the holy city of Qom, immediately raised suspicions about the aim of the nuclear program — which Iran claims is only for peaceful research and energy production. The site is reached by tunnels and is protected by military installations including missile silos and anti-aircraft batteries, Iranian officials said last month.
Iran says the facility — known as Fordo after a village believed to have the largest percentage of fighters killed in the 1980-88 war with Iraq — was fortified to protect against any possible attack by the United States or Israel.
Officials say the plant won't be operational for another 18 months and would produce uranium enrichment levels up to 5 percent, suitable only for peaceful purposes. Weapons-grade material is more than 90 percent enriched.
Iran says its other known enrichment facility — a much larger industrial-scale plant in Natanz in central Iran — is also only to produce nuclear fuel and not at levels for weapons. But many experts say the enrichment centrifuges could be expanded and upgraded to make weapons-grade material.
Another worry for the West is Iran's plans to install a more advanced type of centrifuge at the Fordo site, capable of enriching uranium several times faster and with higher efficiency.
Iran also has promised to respond later this week on U.N.-drafted proposal to have its nuclear fuel processed in Russia, which would limit Iran's stockpiles and allow more international controls.
Although Iran has not given its official answer on the proposed nuclear deal — discussed last week after talks in Vienna with the United States, France and Russia — there are increasing doubts that Iran's leadership will come on board.
On Saturday, Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani claimed the West was trying to "cheat" Iran under the deal that would ship most of Iran's uranium to Russia for reactor-ready enrichment.
Larijani, the country's former nuclear negotiator, said Iran prefers to buy the nuclear fuel it needs for a reactor under construction that makes medical isotopes.
He did not specifically address the fuel needs for Iran's planned full-scale reactor, but Russia is required to provide fuel as part of an agreement to build it for Iran in the southern city of Bushehr. The reactor is nearly operational.
Rejection of the U.N. deal would force the United States and its allies to either return to talks or step up demands for greater economic sanctions and seek to further isolate Iran.
The four-member delegation from the International Atomic Energy Agency is led by Herman Nackaerts, director of IAEA's division of operations department of safeguards. The inspectors are expected to stay three days in Iran.
They are expected to compare Iran's engineering plans with the actual layout of the plant, interview employees and take environmental samples to check for the presence of nuclear materials.
The small-scale site is meant to house no more than 3,000 centrifuges — much less than the estimated 8,000 machines at Natanz.
A recent satellite image provided by DigitalGlobe and GeoEye shows a well-fortified facility built into a mountain about 20 miles northeast of Qom, with ventilation shafts and a nearby surface-to-air missile site, according to defense consultancy IHS Jane's, which did the analysis of the imagery. The image was taken in September. analyzed images from 2005 and January 2009 when the site was in an earlier phase of construction and believes the facility is not underground but was instead cut into a mountain. It is constructed of heavily reinforced concrete and is about the size of a football field — large enough to house 3,000 centrifuges used to refine uranium.

DTN News: Chinese Military Vessel Arrives In Aden According Official Media

DTN News: Chinese Military Vessel Arrives In Aden According Official Media
*Source: DTN News / Int'l Media
(NSI News Source Info) SANAA, Aden - October 25, 2009: A Chinese military vessel arrived in the Aden port Saturday on a goodwill official visit for the coming several days, official SABA news agency reported. Chinese navy warship, the DDG-171 Haikou destroyer, patrols the waters of the Gulf of Aden. The ship is one of three Chinese vessels deployed on anti-piracy operations off the coast of Somalia. (No image/photo available on Chinese military vessel, named Chan Dokouh)
The Chinese military vessel, named Chan Dokouh, is affiliated with the Chinese naval fleet now cruising in the international waters, SANA said.
The military ship and its crew were received by a number of senior Yemeni military and security officials at the southern military naval base in Aden, said the report.
The visit of the Chinese military vessel to Aden port came as part of the joint bilateral cooperation between Yemen and China, particularly in fighting terrorism, counter-smuggling, combating piracy and ensuring safety of navigation through international waterways, added the report.

DTN News: China Vs. India ~ Will Rivalry Lead to War?

DTN News: China Vs. India ~ Will Rivalry Lead to War? *Source: TIME By Jyoti Thottam / New Delhi Monday, Nov. 02, 2009 (NSI News Source Info) NEW DELHI, India - October 25, 2009: Every cold war has its proxies. In a swath of Himalayan mountains wedged between the northeast Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh and China, they can take the shape of things as mundane as the empty beer bottles and cigarette butts left behind by soldiers on patrol. Up in the mountains, the Indian and Chinese armies monitor a boundary whose line the two countries don't agree on. In certain parts of that murky borderland, the soldiers on night patrols often leave behind evidence of their presence. When relations between the two countries are good, it's litter; when the situation is tense, the detritus is marked in the official record as evidence of "aggressive border-patrolling." Without any direct military confrontation, the tension between Asia's two aspiring superpowers is ratcheting up. Activists of Shiv Sena, a Hindu hardline group, shout slogans as they burn an effigy of China's President Hu Jintao during a protest against the Chinese government in New Delhi. India and China have never been close, but of late they have become engaged in increasingly sharp rounds of diplomatic thrust and parry. In September, India signaled its approval of a planned visit by the Dalai Lama to the border town of Tawang, the site of a famous Tibetan Buddhist monastery — a move that China interpreted as a provocation. Beijing then objected to a visit by Manmohan Singh, the Indian Prime Minister, to Arunachal Pradesh, claiming it was part of Tibet, which belongs to China. Outraged that China presumed to tell an Indian leader not to go to territory legally recognized as India's, New Delhi then objected to a new power plant that China is building in Pakistani-controlled Kashmir, territory that India claims. Almost no one expects this year's harsh words to escalate into military action, but the hostility is real. "China is trying to see how far India can be pushed," says Pushpita Das of the Institute for Defense Studies & Security Analyses in New Delhi. China and India share a border 2,175 miles (3,500 km) long. On the Indian side, it runs from states in the northeast that are plagued by insurgency to the glaciers of Ladakh, on the edge of Kashmir. On the Chinese side, the region is just as troubled, encompassing Tibet and Xinjiang, home of the Uighurs, some of whom clashed violently with Chinese earlier this year. India and China fought a brief war in 1962, when China captured territory in — for India — a mortifyingly rapid incursion. They skirmished again in 1967, but since 1993 the two countries have coexisted more or less peacefully along an undemarcated border. What's at stake now isn't territory so much as influence and global status. China is an economic powerhouse, but ever since last year's signing of a civilian nuclear agreement between the U.S. and India, Beijing has become increasingly uneasy with India's growing clout. "It's a competition between two systems: chaotic, undergoverned India and orderly, overgoverned China," says Mohan Guruswamy, an Indian and a co-author of Chasing the Dragon, a new book about the two countries' economic rivalry. That competition continues, with the U.S. trying to keep close ties to both sides in a difficult balancing act that may turn out to be the most important geopolitical challenge facing Washington this century. The tiny Indian hill-station town of Tawang is the unlikely center of the current confrontation. It was there that Chinese troops entered India during the 1962 war, and ever since, Tawang has been the headquarters of an Indian-army brigade. The soldiers are hard to miss because they are so numerous — 15,000 among a population of 80,000 in Tawang and the surrounding countryside. Chombay Kee, a youth activist in Tawang, says the army is a boon to local businesses. "When they go home on leave," he says, "they take back gifts from here." Disclaimer statement Whilst every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the information supplied herein, DTN News ~ Defense-Technology News cannot be held responsible for any errors or omissions. Unless otherwise indicated, opinions expressed herein are those of the author of the page and do not necessarily represent the corporate views of DTN News ~ Defense-Technology News.

DTN News: Israel And U.S. Drill Missile Defense Against Nonconventional Warheads

DTN News: Israel And U.S. Drill Missile Defense Against Nonconventional Warheads *Source: DTN News / Int'l Media (NSI News Source Info) JERUSALEM, Israel - October 25, 2009: Some 2,000 American and Israeli military personnel, together with missile batteries and radar, are moving into positions around the country, as the first phase of the Juniper Cobra missile defense exercise unfolds. U.S. support for Israel's protective shield moved up a notch in 2008 when the U.S. European Command deployed a long-range X-band radar, normally used with the Americans' Theater High Altitude Area Defense system in southern Israel. The X-band, U.S. officials said, was intended to be hooked into Israel's missile defense shield to function primarily with the Arrow-2 long-range anti-ballistic missile system, built by Israel Aerospace Industries and Chicago-based Boeing Co., to counter Iranian Shehab-3 missiles. The U.S.-manned radar installed at Nevatim air base in the southern Negev Desert, which regularly hosts joint U.S.-Israeli air exercises, has doubled Israel's detection range. Israeli soldiers from the Home Front Command and American soldiers from the Ohio National Guard’s Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear and high-yield Explosive Enhanced Response Force (CERF) have already begun drilling a scenario in which missiles with nonconventional warheads are fired at Israeli cities. US Army spokesman Maj. Daniel J. Meyers stressed that the exercises were routine, and one of many simulations being held by the armed forces of both countries. “Israelis and US soldiers need to train to prepare for the defense of their countries, whether that training involves firing a weapon or preparing for any scenario,” Meyers told The Jerusalem Post on Saturday evening. Meyers added that in the context of the joint exercise, the two militaries “need to train together - even the simplest routine tasks should be drilled. Chances are this is not first time [this scenario was drilled].” During the Home Front Command-Ohio National Guard CERF exercise, chemical protection suits were donned by participants, and soldiers in protective suits were hosed down with water to practice avoiding overheating. This year’s Juniper Cobra (they take place every two years) lasts until November 5, and will see computerized simulations of missile attacks in its second phase, and dummy missiles fired at Israeli airspace in its third phase, to test Israel’s Arrow 2 Theater Ballistic Missile Defense System and the US Navy’s AEGIS Ballistic Missile Defense System. The US has brought advanced-capability Patriot missiles into Israel for the drill. “I hope that the exercise goes safely for both Americans and Israelis. This is a defensive exercise,” Meyers said.

DTN News: General Xu Caihou Visit Puts Spotlight On China-US Military Ties

DTN News: General Xu Caihou Visit Puts Spotlight On China-US Military Ties *Source: DTN News / Int'l Media (NSI News Source Info) WASHINGTON, USA - October 25, 2009: China's second-highest ranking officer kicks off Saturday a week-long visit to the United States amid signs that testy military relations between the superpowers are thawing. The trip by General Xu Caihou, the most high-profile Chinese military official to travel to the United States in years, is poised to ease tensions that flared earlier this year amid naval standoffs off China's coast.US Defense Secretary Robert Gates (L) meets with Chinese Central Military Commission Vice Chairman General Xu Caihou. Xu will meet US Defense Secretary Robert Gates on Tuesday and tour a string of American bases and installations as the two militaries look to ensure dangerous past miscommunications are not repeated. The high-profile trip comes ahead of President Barack Obama's first visit to China next month since taking office. Obama is expected to discuss US-China military ties on top of seeking Beijing's help in stemming the global financial crisis, combating climate change and bridling nuclear drives by North Korea and Iran. Experts say military relations have long lagged behind political and economic ties and note that Xu's visit comes months after a US-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue that failed to address military issues. Washington has expressed concern at China's military build-up and modernization, pressing for more transparency from the Asian giant on its intentions amid double-digit increases in Beijing's armed forces budget. The Pentagon chief said last month that China's increasingly advanced weaponry could undermine US military power in the Pacific, as American aircraft carriers and short-range fighter jets faced potential threats from missiles and anti-ship and anti-satellite systems. China has boosted its conventional missile capabilities to such an extent that an attack involving Chinese short-range ballistic missiles "could cut every runway at Taiwan's fighter bases and destroy any aircraft parked in the open," a RAND Corporation report concluded in August. "The problem at heart is that China's leaders are still uncomfortable with a leadership position because of what that entails in terms of responsibility," Abraham Denmark of the Center for a New American Security told AFP. Beijing and Washington have established a military hotline but "the real test of communication is whether they will pick up the phone," noted Denmark, a former country director for China affairs in the Office of the Secretary of Defense. Although this year's incidents between Chinese vessels and US Navy ships in the South China Sea and the Yellow Sea were resolved peacefully, "setbacks in the relationship could come at anytime," warned Bonnie Glaser of the Center for Strategic and International Studies. "There is a real gap of communication." In order to allay each other's concerns, the two countries could discuss ways to provide each other with greater "strategic reassurance," Glaser said, repeating US calls for China to reassure the world of its peaceful intentions as it positions itself on the global stage. A long-standing Chinese demand that Washington stop selling weapons to Taiwan -- which China claims is part of its territory -- is sure to loom large during Xu's talks with Gates. Beijing cut military exchanges with Washington for months last year over a proposed 6.5-billion-dollar US arms package to Taiwan, but agreed to resume them in February. On Monday, Xu, a vice chairman of China's central military commission, will visit the US Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland. During his stay ending October 31, he will also tour the US Army's Fort Benning in Georgia, US Strategic Command in Nebraska, Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada, the North Island Naval Air Station in San Diego and US Pacific Command in Hawaii. His trip also comes amid US worries over China's deployment of Jin-class submarines. According to Pentagon estimates, China will deploy by next year five of the submarines, which can each hold 12 nuclear-tipped intercontinental ballistic missiles.

DTN News: U.S. Urges Japan To Export SM-3s Block 2A Missiles

DTN News: U.S. Urges Japan To Export SM-3s Block 2A Missiles *Source: DTN News / Int'l Media (NSI News Source Info) TOKYO, Japan - October 25, 2009: U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates asked Japan last week to export a new type of ship-based missile interceptor under joint development by Tokyo and Washington to third countries, presumably European, sources close to Japan-U.S. relations said. Gates' request could lead to a further relaxation of Japan's decades-long arms embargo and spark a chorus of opposition from pacifist elements in the ruling Democratic Party of Japan and one of its coalition partners, the Social Democratic Party.Japan has been engaged in a ballistic missile defense dialogue with the United States since 1987 when the two countries signed an Agreement Concerning Japanese Participation in Research for the Strategic Defense Initiative. Since 1987, BMDO sponsored two joint industry studies, which recommended a two-tiered TMD architecture. In December 1993, a U.S.-Japan TMD Working Group (TMD WG) was created under the Security Sub Committee, Security Consultative Committee (SSC-SCC) to provide a forum for regular discussion of TMD and TMD-related matters such as regional political implications and treaty compliance. In October 1994, a Government of Japanled U.S.-Japan Bilateral Study on Ballistic Missile Defense was initiated; the study provided extensive simulation and systems analysis to identify and evaluate various missile defense alternative architectures. The results identified and evaluated specific Japanese TMD-related technologies associated with the U.S. Navy Theater Wide TBMD program and their related capabilities that would enhance U.S. TMD systems development. Gates made the request concerning Standard Missile-3 Block 2A missiles during talks with Defense Minister Toshimi Kitazawa on Wednesday, the sources said. The SM-3 Block 2A missile, an advanced version of the SM-3 series, is to be deployed on warships. Japan has a policy of not exporting weapons or arms technology, except to the United States, with which it has a bilateral security pact. Gates' request followed President Barack Obama's announcement in September that the United States is abandoning plans for a missile defense shield in Eastern Europe and adopting a new approach to antimissile defense. During his talks with Kitazawa, Gates called for a relaxation of Japan's arms embargo and prodded Tokyo to pave the way for exports of the new interceptors to third countries, particularly European, the sources said. Kitazawa refrained from answering directly, telling Gates the government would study the request as it is an internal matter for Japan, the sources said. The United States plans to begin deploying SM-3 Block 2A missiles in 2018. The Foreign and Defense ministries believe it will be difficult to reject Gates' request, the sources said. In December 2004, Japan and the United States signed an agreement for bilateral cooperation on a ballistic missile defense system. At the time, Japan exempted U.S.-bound exports of missile interceptors to be developed by the two countries from its arms embargo rules. Following an agreement on joint development of a new missile interceptor, Japan and the U.S. exchanged diplomatic documents on banning its transfer to third parties or its use for purposes other than originally intended without Japan's advance agreement. The sources said Japan would probably be forced to exempt the export of the interceptors to third countries or give its nod in advance as stated in the documents. The United States is hoping to get an answer to Gates' request by the end of 2010, and envisages Japan exporting the new interceptors to European countries, including Germany, the sources said. SM-3 interceptors are designed to be launched from warships equipped with the sophisticated Aegis air defense system against intermediate ballistic missiles. Japan began deploying the U.S.-developed SM-3 Block-1 interceptors on its Aegis destroyers in fiscal 2007. In fiscal 2006, Japan and the United States began to jointly develop the SM-3 Block 2A, an advanced and more accurate version. Japan is developing the core part of the interceptor, which protects an infrared ray sensor from heat generated by air friction, while the United States is in charge of developing the warhead, called the Kinetic projectile, which would hit and destroy a ballistic missile. Japan's arms embargo dates back to 1967, when then Prime Minister Eisaku Sato declared a ban on weapons exports to communist states, countries to which the United Nations bans such exports and parties to international conflicts. The policy was tightened in 1976 when then Prime Minister Takeo Miki imposed an almost blanket ban on the export of weapons. But in 1983, Japan exempted exports of weapons technology to the United States from the embargo.

DTN News: US, North Korea Hold Nuclear Talks In New York

DTN News: US, North Korea Hold Nuclear Talks In New York *Source: DTN News / Int'l Media (NSI News Source Info) WASHINGTON, USA - October 25, 2009: Senior US and North Korean envoys held rare face-to-face talks in New York, boosting hopes of progress in stalled six-party nuclear talks and paving the way toward increased bilateral engagement.This undated photo released by North Korea's official Korean Central News Agency on October 24, 2009 shows North Korean leader Kim Jong Il (C) inspecting a newly-built pig farm at an undisclosed location in North Korea. The US froze October 23, 2009 the assets of a North Korean bank after the Treasury designated it a proliferator of weapons of mass destruction, officials said. Ri Gun, a deputy negotiator in stalled negotiations over the hermit state's nuclear program, met Saturday with Sung Kim, the US special envoy on North Korea's nuclear disarmament. Ri arrived in the United States on Friday. The meeting comes as Ri is scheduled to participate in Sunday the Northeast Asia Cooperative Dialogue in San Diego, California along with US Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Asian and Pacific Security Affairs Derek Mitchell. "Ambassador Sung Kim took the opportunity to meet with him (Ri) in New York on October 24 to convey our position on denuclearization and the six-party talks," State Department spokesman Noel Clay said in a statement. North Korea has long sought to meet exclusively with the United States and gain recognition as a nuclear weapons state. Ri's rare visit fueled fresh speculation that North Korea is preparing to return to talks about its nuclear weapons program with China, Japan, Russia, South Korea and the United States. US Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Kurt Campbell said this week that Washington was ready to meet one-on-one with Pyongyang, but only if it "rapidly" leads to full-fledged denuclearization talks in the six-nation forum. The United States "would be prepared for, in the right circumstances at some point, some initial interaction" with the impoverished and reclusive state so long as the move "would lead rapidly to a six-party framework," he said. On October 6, North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il told Chinese envoys the North was willing to return to six-way talks, but insisted it first negotiate directly with the United States to repair "hostile relations." The San Diego meeting is organized by the University of California's Institute on Global Conflict and Cooperation, which released a study urging Washington to scrap its policy of isolating Pyongyang and embrace economic engagement to curb the reclusive communist state's provocative behavior. It namely recommended dropping objections to Pyongyang's entry into global financial institutions like the International Monetary Fund (IMF). The study released Thursday flew in the face of the approach undertaken by President Barack Obama, who has pushed to toughen sanctions after Pyongyang's string of incitements, including a nuclear test and missile launches. Ri's trip followed Washington's unusual decision to grant a visa to the North Korean officials, but Clay stressed that Ri "traveled to the US on the invitation of US private organizations." Prior to the San Diego event, the North Korean delegation was scheduled to attend a seminar in New York hosted by the National Committee on American Foreign Policy and the Korea Society. The possible diplomatic overtures come after senior US officials fired tough words at Pyongyang. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has warned that the United States will never have "normal, sanctions-free relations" with a nuclear-armed North Korea and demanded Pyongyang's full nuclear disarmament. During a visit to South Korea on Thursday, US Defense Secretary Robert Gates labeled North Korea a grave threat to international peace and promised to keep Washington's allies in East Asia under its nuclear umbrella. The United States has 28,500 troops in South Korea, bolstering that nation's 655,000-strong armed forces against the North's 1.2 million troops. Speculation is also rife about a possible summit between the two Koreas, after Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao said earlier this month that the North Korean leader has expressed a desire to improve ties with the South. The Koreas held summit talks in 2000 and 2007 and agreed on a series of reconciliation events and joint economic projects.

DTN News: Pakistan TODAY October 25, 2009 ~ Pakistan Military Captures Taliban Leader's Hometown

DTN News: Pakistan TODAY October 25, 2009 ~ Pakistan Military Captures Taliban Leader's Hometown *Source: DTN News / Int'l Media (NSI News Source Info) ISLAMABAD, Pakistan - October 25, 2009: Pakistani military officials say they have captured the hometown of Pakistani Taliban chief Hakimullah Mehsud and one of his top deputies, Qari Hussain. The announcement comes at the start of the second week of the army's offensive in Mehsud's stronghold of South Waziristan. Pakistani soldiers provide security as trucks carrying military logistics drive along a road from South Waziristan to the outskirts of Dera Ismail Khan on October 24, 2009. Pakistan said on October 24 it had captured Taliban chief Hakimullah Mehsud's hometown as the US demonstrated its support for the war on the Islamists with an air strike that killed 14 people. Pakistani troops and Taliban militants have been locked in intense clashes in the tribal belt which has killed more than 150 people. Around 30,000 troops are taking part in the offensive against an estimated 10-12,000 militants in the semi-autonomous and lawless tribal belt. Relief workers say that more than 120,000 people have been displaced by the fighting. Pakistani officials say the military gained control of the town of Kotkai Saturday, following days of heavy fighting. Former security chief of the tribal areas Mahmood Shah talked to VOA about the development. "The town is not of any significance, but the mountainous area around is important," he said. He says the army's capture of the Kotkai area will help facilitate its advance toward Makeen and Ladha, two major Taliban strongholds. The Pakistani army entered the South Waziristan tribal region last Saturday from three different areas in an attempt to completely surround the Taliban fighters. The military says it has killed at least 163 militants, while 23 soldiers have died. There is no independent confirmation of the tolls, as the region is closed to outsiders and is dangerous even for local reporters to visit. In recent weeks, suspected militants have launched a series of attacks, hitting police centers, the army's headquarters and a United Nations office. There also have been at least five instances of violence since the Pakistani military began its offensive. In one attack on Tuesday, two suicide bombers hit separate areas at an Islamic university in the capital, Islamabad. Shah says that despite the fact officials had anticipated acts of retaliation, the latest violence was surprising. "We saw these attacks carry out with more ferocity than what probably the government had expected," he said. Authorities have tightened security across the country, as well as closed educational institutions until Monday.